10. The Good, The Bad And The Queen, Rock Against Racism 30th anniversary, Victoria Park, London. 2008
I went to the original RAR gigs and this was an even better one under the banner Love Music Hate Racism. What a lineup there was for this supergroup including Blur’s Damon Albarn, The Clash’s dub reggae bassist Paul Simonon, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and The Verve’s Simon Tong. Such an eclectic mix of world beats, punk, indie ‘Kingdom Of Doom’ style which got a rapturous reaction from the diverse rammed crowd. Also on the bill was the mighty Jerry Dammers with his orchestra. I bumped into Jerry on one of my coastal walks recently and he said it was a very special gig for him too.
9. Peter Tosh, London Dominion 1983.
Our band the Anti-Social Workers supported this absolute prophet for this one. But the reggae purists thought our punk sound was too rough and ready, despite the Mad Professor’s dub riddims, and booed us off and threw plastic cups at us! Hilarious! When we came off Peter insisted on trying to hit on our singer Paula so in revenge we nicked his vintage champagne from the dressing room when he went on. But his set was totally a champion sound. I remember him starting with ‘African’ and ending with ‘Mama Africa’ so a motherland theme was there but his version of ‘Don’t Look Back’ the single he did with Jagger was wavy as fuck and got the whole crowd skanking out!
8. Thin Lizzy, Hammersmith Odeon 1976
In what was to become their ‘Live And Dangerous’ album me and a group of London Newtown schoolmates loved this as one of our very first gigs. We had a terrible seat but being proper London herberts we moved to the aisles in the seats closer to the front and got nearer to the magnetic mixed-race main man Phil Lynott, an Irish poet and troubadour. There was pure rock’n’roll lifestyle in every track and ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ felt like it literally took the roof off! My ears were ringing for days after and I blame this mob for my poor hearing nowadays.
7. Wiley, Sundown Festival 2013
I know he’s blotted his copybook after his recent dumb anti-semitic comments but this was the most energetic gig I’d ever seen. The Godfather of Grime stood on speakers and raced around the stage with his Arsenal tracksuit treating us to hyped-up versions of ‘Wot Do You Call It’ and ‘Eskimo Dance’. He had a habit of dropping out and walking out of festivals so it was super cool to see this innovator in action and he didn’t disappoint.
6. New Order, Walthamstow Assembly Hall 1981
I reviewed this for Record Mirror and my review went into the first New Order book which I was gassed about. This was one of their first gigs after the demise of Joy Division and Ian Curtis. Very moody, very atmospheric and you felt like you were at a historic gig. Their version that night of ‘In A Lonely Place’ absolutely mesmerised everyone in the building.
5. Sex Pistols, Crystal Palace 2005
The barbarian scum returned with Lydon announcing the immortal words ‘Never trust a toff, never, ever’. Their versions of ‘Pretty Vacant’ and a cover of Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’ were absolutely peak. After the gig, I spotted their guitarist Steve Jones who took me backstage to party with Johnny, his minder Rambo at an all-night trance party in West London with the usual pills, thrills and bellyaches going round. I got the milk train home early in the morning. Those were the days!.
4. Public Enemy Hammersmith Odeon 1987
I was in the DJ booth with Westwood for this one and I still maintain these were the greatest group America ever produced.’Consider yourselves warned’ said
Professor Griff as the Sirens wailed for the concert which became the DVD ‘It Takes A Nation. The First London invasion’. Believe it or not, they were the opening act supporting LL Cool J and Eric B and Rakim. Made even more dramatic by the dancers/security in the black panther outfits they seemed absolutely fearless and as lit as a firecracker! I remember Chuck D saying ‘I hear racists want to stop this concert – what do you think’ and the crowd going nuts! You had to be there.
3. Janet Jackson, Wembley Arena 1995
This was the end of her world tour where she did three nights. It was like a Broadway show with the amount of costume changes, grandeur and pyrotechnics but it remains in my heart as pure funk sexuality. Her butt-wiggling, groin thrusting, lip-smacking versions of ‘Nasty’ and ‘What Have You Done For me Lately’ showed who was in control here.
2. The Specials, Northern Carnival Against Racism, Leeds 1981
30,000 people attended this in a show of solidarity against racial prejudice. I was working on a fanzine at the time and blagged an interview with their singer Terry Hall before the gig which I also sold to Melody Maker. I think it was their last ever interview and they split soon after (probably as a result of my awkward interview!). But the gig was the biggest show of unity I’ve ever seen and when they did ‘Ghost Town’ I remember these black kids at the front losing their pork pie hats in all the carnage. To me Two-Tone was more revolutionary than punk with the way it brought working-class people of all colours together and this gig was the greatest example of that.
1. Prince, Earls Court 1992
On the Diamonds and Pearls tour this set a record at this 18,000 capacity arena for selling out eight shows. This was the first time he worked with dancer Mayte who went on to become his wife. The 18 band members was Prince’s largest-ever entourage and Rosie Gaines left The New Power Generation at the end of the tour to go solo. This was probably my fave gig as it was so long, lush and goddam funky. We’ll never see his like again…. But as an afterthought the funniest gig was definitely driving three hours from my Essex home to an East Anglian gig to see my favourite Spoken Word artist George The Poet and he had cancelled the gig due to poor ticket sales and the replacement randomly was an AC/DC tribute band! Needless to say I asked for a refund! LOL!
Also rans: Gil Scott Heron, South Bank GLC concert; Led Zeppelin, Knebworth ; Sleaford Mods, Waterfront, Norwich; Bob Dylan, Brixton Academy; Bruce Springsteen, Royal Albert Hall; Alex Harvey Band, Hemel Hempstead Pavillion; Kano, Sundown Festival; John Martyn, Friars, Aylesbury; Cockney Rejects, Bridge House, London; Millie Jackson, Dominion Theatre, London.
About the author
Paul Wellings AKA Paul T/DJ Madhatter was one of the original pioneers of underground black music on the iconic black-owned LWR pirate rebel radio station in the 80s and is an author, broadcaster, journalist and spoken word artist. He attended the famous free Anna Scher Drama School in Islington, North London (where Kathy Burke, Spandau Ballet’s Gary and Martin Kemp, Phil Daniels and Oscar-winner Daniel Kulaya went). He was named after the civil rights singer Paul Robeson (his mums favourite) . In 1985 Wellings was lucky to land a prestigious freelance job on the music press with the New Musical Express (NME), thanks to iconic Editor Neil Spencer and also on Black Echoes. He was one of the first to write about the Rare Groove/Hip Hop scene and its links with the soccer casual movement. He hates name droppers (as he told The Pope recently!) but has interviewed hundreds of diverse musicians including James Brown, Barry White, Public Enemy, Lady Leshurr, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Specials, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Yellowman, Paul Weller, Jazzie B, Natalie Cole, Barry White, Ian Dury, Norman Jay, The Wailers, Gregory Isaacs, John Martyn, Ronnie Scott, and random oddities like Hollywood actor Christian Slater, activist Tony Benn and the notorious Reggie Kray. He also worked on Mojo, the Daily Mirror and London’s Evening Standard, writing about sport, music and showbiz. Paul has appeared on numerous TV shows discussing football, black music, youth culture, soccer casuals, and pirate radio. He was interviewed for the major ITV music series ”S.O.U.L” about underground music. In the early 1980s his punk-reggae group the Anti Social Workers released the LP Positive Style, produced by the legendary reggae producer the Mad Professor (of Massive Attack fame) spitting lyrics over his dub tunes, to rave reviews. The group supported reggae royalty Peter Tosh (Bob Marley’s partner) and Eek A Mouse on tour and did well in the Japanese reggae charts. But his expertise was as a rare grooves DJ with underground radio station LWR (the station that launched Radio 1’s Pete Tong, Carl Cox, Mr C, Westwood, Derek B and Maxi Jazz from Faithless). He has DJ’d at Ministry Of Sound in London and Pacha in Ibiza. He was one of the first DJs to play Public Enemy and Soul II Soul on air anywhere in the world and was a B-Boy DJ as a teenager. Now he just DJs, performs spoken word and writes when he can. He is married to the cousin of the late great reggae superstar Sugar Minott. He is fuelled by socialism, the love of a good woman and West Ham United.